The benighted land of Somalia has long been the world's leading political and economic basket case. But when $5.5 million of a $7 million ransom is dropped, in cash, by helicopter, on to the deck of a hijacked oil tanker (the balance having been wired to a bank account); when two rival pirate clans engage in a gunfight over the loot, and one of them calls the European Union's anti-piracy task force to ask for help; and when the pirates distribute $400,000 among the tanker's captive crew to thank them for their co-operation - then we really have passed into some parallel universe in which sanity does not exist.
Of all these events, perhaps the most worrying is the last. Cargo-ship crews are, for the most part, not generously remunerated. The day cannot be far off when one crew volunteers to be hijacked in the hope of augmenting their income. Every Somali girl, The National reported last year, wants to marry a pirate. With this kind of business acumen, it is becoming depressingly clear why.